Opinionated Hype: 30 Bucks For Live F1 Timing Mobile App? WTF?!

Anyone who owns a smart phone or tablet knows the wonder of apps.  These days there is an app for just about anything, no matter if you have an Android device or an Apple device.  When it comes to things like sports apps really shine.  The official NBA app allows fans to keep track of virtually everything going on in the league, same with the official NFL app, and NHL app.  NASCAR and Indy Car have their own official apps too as well and the best thing about all the apps I mentioned is that they are all free.

Last year Formula 1 used to be a part of that group as they offered a free live timing app that also included other features like track notes and weather conditions.  I will admit it was a pretty basic bare bones app when compared to what some of the other sports offered but its simplicity actually made the user experience more enjoyable and it really came through when I could not watch a race on TV.

However, this year that all changed.  Formula 1 enlisted developer Soft Pauer to revamp their official mobile app and revamp they did.  The new app has everything last year’s app had but now with beautiful graphical representations of each track with live position markers for each driver, tire data for each driver (know who is on what tire), DRS zone markers on each track map, live news updates from race control, the ability to follow a specific driver, and pick out certain virtual (not live broadcast) corner views and such.  I will be the first to say that is an impressive list of features.  The only problem is that this app will set you back a whopping $30 bucks! (Actually $30.99 on Google Play and $28.99 in the iTunes App Store).

In a marketplace where most apps are 99 cents or free a $30 price tag for a mobile app to follow a sport is ridiculous! Or is it?  Am I being unfair? Is there a good reason for the high price tag?  Lets take a deeper look at some comperable apps (Indy Car and NASCAR) to see how they stack up against F1’s current offering.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile

The NASCAR Sprint Cup mobile app gives users access to live in-car audio from all the drivers in the field, race radio live broadcasts, live timing, live telemetry, and other cool stuff like highlight videos, interviews and the like.  All of that stuff is offered for free, or so it appears.

As the title says it is the NASCAR Sprint Cup mobile app.  So while the app is technically free, it can only be downloaded if you are a Sprint service subscriber.  Also, even if you are on Sprint if you have the iPhone 4 or 4S you are SOL since the app is currently not offered in the iTunes App Store.  Some have complained that the only reason they switched to Sprint was for this very app yet they cannot get it because they chose an iPhone instead of an Android powered phone.

Although, this is where the “Free” comes from.  NASCAR does not have to charge users for the app since it is pretty much subsidized by the Sprint title sponsorship of the series. 

Indy Car Mobile By Verizon

The Indy Car Mobile app is pretty similar to the NASCAR app except the Indy Car App allows for live in-car camera video (for select drivers), live “race control center” video during races, and the ability to split your screen into quadrants and watch 4 video feeds at once.  You also get all the live updates, live track positioning, and other stuff you get with apps of this sort.

The Indy Car Mobile app is also free but like the NASCAR Sprint Cup app the key is in the app’s title.  This app is only available to Verizon subscribers, and also like the NASCAR app it seems to be exclusive to Android devices at the moment.

“Free” is not so free

Ok, so it turns out that many “free” sports apps out there including the Indy Car and NASCAR apps are only offered as such due to sponsorships and since Formula One has no “official title sponsor” it is understandable why they decided to make their 2012 app a pay for play affair.  However, my argument here is not that the Formula One mobile app should be free, its that $30 bucks for the privilege is way too much!

Again I fully conceed to the fact that the F1 2012 live timing app is very feature rich, and good looking but seriously, one would be hard-pressed to find a similar paid sports app period much less one that demands that kind of coin for use.  I think Formula One/FIA would make much more money and make people much happier if they reduced the price of the current app to say $10 to $15 and offered a basic version (get rid of all of the 3D modeled live representation of cars, track position, etc) and offered it for a buck. 

As it stands, the F1 2012 app has “5,000 – 10,000” installs.  While that may sound like a lot, the Indy Car Mobile app has 10 times as much and the NASCAR app has at least over 5 million installs.  Despite locking out the other service subscribers and millions of iPhone owners those two apps still dwarf the F1 apps usership despite F1 being the second most popular sport in the world!  What does that say?

It says your app costs too much F***ing money Formula One!  Get a clue Bernie! You of all people should know what its like to be robbed.

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